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Young bullies and bullying victims ‘more likely to suffer psychiatric problems and depression as adults’ [Mirror, by Stephen Beech, 09/12/2015]

New research builds on the previous evidence bullying or being bullied may contribute to later mental health problems.

Youngster who are bullied are more likely to suffer psychiatric problems and depression when they grow up, a study shows.

The young bullies themselves are also at greater risk of disorders needing treatment in later life – compared to children who grew up without being exposed the bullying.

New research builds on the previous evidence bullying or being bullied may contribute to later mental health problems.

For the new study, published online by JAMA Psychiatry, researchers looked at associations between bullying behaviour at the age of eight and adult psychiatric problems by the age of 29.

The study used figures from more than 5,000 children in Finland and assessments of bullying and exposure to bullying were based on information from the youngsters, their parents and teachers.

Information on the use of inpatient and outpatient services to treat psychiatric disorders from ages 16 to 29 was obtained from a nationwide hospital register.

Around 90 per cent of the participants did not engage in bullying behaviour and, of those, 11.5 per cent had received a psychiatric diagnosis by follow-up.

 

In comparison, 33 of the 166 participants who engaged in frequent bullying (19.9 per cent), 58 of 251 frequently exposed to bullying (23.1 per cent), and 24 of 77 who both frequently engaged in and were frequently exposed to bullying (31.2 per cent) had psychiatric diagnoses by the age of 29.

The study participants were divided into four groups: those who never or only sometimes bully and are not exposed to bullying; those who frequently bully but are not exposed to bullying; those who were frequently only exposed to bullying; and those who frequently bully and are exposed to bullying.

The treatment of any psychiatric disorder was associated with frequent exposure to bullying, as well as with being a bully and being exposed to bullying.

Exposure to bullying was associated with depression, according to the results.

The findings showed that participants who were bullies and exposed to bullying at age eight had a “high risk” for several psychiatric disorders that required treatment when they were adults.

The researchers said the main limitation of the study was the lack of understanding about how bullying or exposure to bullying may lead to psychiatric disorders.

Corresponding author Doctor Andre Sourander, of the University of Turku in Finland, said: “Future studies containing more nuanced information about the mediating factors that occur between childhood bullying and adulthood disorders will be needed to shed light on this important question.

“Policy makers and health care professionals should be aware of the complex nature between bullying and psychiatric outcomes when they implement prevention and treatment interventions.”